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Notebook: Referee elaborates on rule changes for 2013

Aug. 2, 2013
 

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Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will have to be more careful about leading with his helmet when taking on tacklers. File/Gannett Wisconsin Media

Injury report

• New injuries: WR Jordy Nelson (knee), TE Andrew Quarless (quad), S David Fulton (knee), LB Jamari Lattimore (illness), LB Brad Jones (finger).
• Still out: WR Sederrik Cunningham (wrist), WR Kevin Dorsey (lower body), WR Charles Johnson (knee), RB DuJuan Harris (knee), CB Tramon Williams (knee), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Casey Hayward (hamstring), OL J.C. Tretter (ankle), DL Mike Neal (abdominal), T Derek Sherrod (leg), DL Jerel Worthy (knee), LB Dezman Moses (toe).
• Returned: LB Nate Palmer (shoulder).

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The NFL’s new rule prohibiting ball carriers in the open field from striking an opponent with the crown of their helmet would have been called only three times last year, referee Bill Vinovich said Friday.

Vinovich presented and then answered reporters’ questions about the NFL’s video that explains and illustrates this year’s rules changes to teams and media. The video showed three examples of the new rule prohibiting backs from striking with the crown of their helmets, and Vinovich said those were the only three instances from all of last season.

One was of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson hitting a tackler like a battering ram.

“Adrian Peterson was probably the best example,” Vinovich said. “The old Barry Sanders and Walter Payton (runs), when they were out in the open field and said, ‘I’m just going to take you on,’ that’s what they want to eliminate.”

The new rule prohibits ball carriers from striking with the crown of their helmet only under specific circumstances: First, the ball carrier has to line up his opponent and take him straight on; second, the contact has to be outside the tackle box, which means outside the tackles or at least three yards down field; and third, the ball carrier must lower his head and lead with the crown of his helmet.

So the rule doesn’t apply to a running back who lowers his head while plunging into the middle of the line. Also, if the ball carrier and tackler are approaching each other at an angle, the ball carrier may lower his head and not be penalized.

The rule was changed for the safety of the ball carrier as much as for the defender.

Here are the other rules changes and points of emphasis for 2013:

The “tuck rule” has been changed so that the throwing motion ends when the passer begins to pull the ball into his body. Previously, the throwing motion didn’t end until the ball had been tucked.

On place kicks, the long-snapper now is classified a “defenseless player” and can’t be hit in the head or neck area while in the snapping process. Defenses already were prohibited from lining up a player over the center. Defenses may make contact with the long-snapper while trying to split the gap between him and the guard, but they may not hit the long-snapper directly.

On place kicks, the defense can’t line up more than six players on one side of the long-snapper. It also can’t in effect create the force of two players hitting one blocker by having a player push a down lineman into the offensive line.

On kicks and punts, the defense no longer can hit players below the waist anywhere on the field, including along the line. The kicking team still may block rushers below the waist.

Peel-back blocks below the waist are now illegal inside the tackle box. They used to be illegal only outside the box. A peel-back block is when the blocker approaches a player from the side or behind.

The penalty for an illegal replay challenge has changed. Last year, if a coach challenged a play that was to be reviewed automatically (i.e., a scoring or turnover play, or a play inside two minutes of each half and overtime), the penalty included forfeiture of the review. Now, the team will lose a timeout (or be penalized 15 yards if it has no timeout), but the automatic review will take place.

All players except punters and kickers have to wear thigh and knee pads.

The officials each season have points of emphasis for existing rules. This year’s are:

Calling facemask penalties on running backs who control or twist an opponent’s facemask with a stiff arm.

Penalizing players who taunt verbally or by throwing, spiking or spinning the ball at an opponent. Officials will be looking to penalize instigators.

Penalizing late hits around the pile when players are down or when their forward progress is stopped and the play is blown dead.

Hawk favors HGH testing

Like teammate Clay Matthews, inside linebacker A.J. Hawk endorsed the NFL and its players association to test for human growth hormone.

“I think you should 100 percent test for it, because if you don’t test for something guys are going to do it, they’re going to find it,” Hawk said. “I don’t know how many people might be on it, but I told them years ago they could take my blood every camp. You can have random blood samples of it just like we do for the steroids. I would definitely be a proponent to test us.”

HGH testing in the NFL has been a priority issue since the league and the players union signed their collective bargaining agreement in 2011. The two sides haven’t agreed to a testing and disciplinary protocol, though.

Mourning at A&M

Patrick Lewis had forecast big things on the football field for Polo Manukainiu, a 19-year-old defensive lineman and former teammate of Lewis’ at Texas A&M who died Monday in an automobile accident.

Manukainiu, 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, spent the majority of his redshirt freshman year in 2012 going up against all-American tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews in practice.

“It was very startling,” said Lewis, an undrafted rookie trying to make the Packers’ roster. “It was one of those situations where you like — not him. He was a really good person and you hate to see good people lose their lives and the way he did, unexpected and so early. It baffles you.”

The incident occurred on Tuesday near Cuba, N.M., when the driver of Manukainiu’s vehicle reportedly over-corrected, resulting in a rollover and the death of three people, including Manukainiu and Utah freshman defensive tackle Gaius Vaenuku. Both were ejected from the vehicle.

New Mexico State Police said alcohol wasn’t a factor, although it appeared the driver was the only one wearing a seatbelt.

Injury bug

Wide receiver Jordy Nelson and tight end Andrew Quarless missed their first training camp practice on Friday night with Nelson sitting out with a knee injury and Quarless expected to miss a few days with a quad injury.

Nelson, who missed four games last year with lower body ailments, banged his knee at Wednesday’s practice. McCarthy said it’s a recurrence of an old injury for the sixth-year receiver, who's still being evaluated.

Inside linebacker Brad Jones dropped out of practice with a finger injury and was still being looked at, according to McCarthy. Sam Barrington worked next to A.J. Hawk in some team drills with Terrell Manning working in Jones’ spot as the dime linebacker in the final two-minute drill. Hawk also worked in that position

Linebacker Jamari Lattimore also sat out of practice with the same gastrointestinal illness that sidelined him for the first two days of camp.

— pdougher@pressgazette media.com and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.
— whodkiew@pressgazette media.com and follow him on Twitter @PeteDougherty.

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